“Mental illness is a part of who you are, but it doesn’t define you. You are not your illness. Your courage & strength is what truly defines you.”
Anxiety and depression
We can all feel anxious or low from time to time. If you’re going through difficult times where you feel anxiety is disrupting your life or you’re feeling down and sad it will help to get support early on.
Don’t deny how you feel or brush things under the carpet and and just assume things will get better – often symptoms will worsen if you don’t start to look at what is really going on. The good news is that having depression or anxiety is just like any other physical health condition, and it can be successfully treated.
What causes anxiety and depression ?
Anxiety and depression can unfortunately happen for no obvious reason. But sometimes it can be triggered by certain life events we experience such as:
Financial issues, bereavement, relationship problems, work issues, health concerns, housing issues, looking after a family member or the time of year. These situations can make anyone feel low but not everyone who experiences these will become depressed.
What is depression?
Depression is fairly common – it affects 1 in 5 people and can be more common for people in later life. The symptoms of depression can manifest in different ways and each person’s experience will be different. Symptoms can include:-
* lack of interest and unable to enjoy things you normally enjoy
* being reluctant to engage in usual activities or leave your house
* feeling tired
* sleeping too much or too little
* loss of appetite or eating more than usual
* losing or gaining weight over a relatively short time
* losing confidence in yourself and feeling life is pointless
* being self-critical and feeling guilty
having suicidal thoughts.
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is a really normal part of life, however often it can feel unpleasant and become overwhelming, it affects us all in different ways and at different times. Stress however is something that will come and go and is caused by external factors like work, relationship or money problems, etc. Symptoms of anxiety can persist even when the cause of our anxiety is unclear to the sufferer, this can make it feel really scary.
Anxiety can escalate and make you believe that things in your life are far worse than they really are, and this prevents you from confronting your fears, you may feel really stuck and disempowered. What is especially important is to remember that anxiety is a normal biological response and exists due to a set of bodily functions that have existed in us from our cave-man days.
Back then everyone was equipped with an internal alarm system designed to protect us and keep us safe from the dangers surrounding us in the wild. This system would make us hyper-vigilant by giving us a boost of adrenaline that would increase the heart rate and boost the amount of oxygen going to our limbs so we were better able to fight or run from danger, in cave man days danger would have been everywhere. This is known as the “fight or flight” response.
The “butterflies in the stomach” feeling that is associated with anxiety is this mechanism getting started, but instead of being used to avoid immediate danger our systems can become confused and the fight or flight can be wrongly activated in a person during normal, everyday situations when stress has built up, often unknowingly, so our body effectively reacts as if danger is present when it isn’t.
You may have a clearly identifiable cause for your anxiety; a traumatic incident, lots of different stressors or you’ve experience a difficult significant life event. However, some people don’t know what has caused their anxiety and this in itself causes them even more distress. One way of thinking about your anxiety is to imagine your stress levels as being like a bucket of water.
If we keep adding stressors to the bucket (even tiny ones like the school run or commuting to work), over time it fills up until one day it overflows. This can be a good way of looking at anxiety as it explains why sometimes it can seem to come out of the blue with no significant trigger. However, what has happened is that the trigger was just a very small stressor that tipped us over the edge and our bucket overflows.
What we really need is to modify our bucket and introduce some leaks, if we add some holes we can reduce our overall stress levels. Each one of these holes could be something positive that you do to manage your anxiety, such as yoga, exercise, reading, listening to music or spending time with friends or family.
Symptoms of anxiety:-
People experience physical, psychological and behavioural symptoms when they feel stressed or anxious.
Some of the most common physical symptoms of anxiety are:-
Increased heart rate
Tingling in the hands and feet
Hyperventilation (over breathing)
Difficulty in breathing
Wanting to use the toilet more often
Tight band across the chest area
One of the most common coping strategies when we are feeling anxious is avoidance. Although avoiding a situation that triggers anxiety can produce immediate relief from the anxiety, it is not a long term solution.
So whilst it may seem like avoiding is the best thing to do at the time, the anxiety is likely to return the next time that you face the situation and avoiding it only reinforces the message that there is danger. The problem with avoidance is you never really get to find out whether your fear about the situation and what you think will happen is actually true so the cycle continues.
How I can help
In your Counselling sessions we will create a safe space, one in which you will not be judged, where you will feel in control of what happens and we will go at your pace. We will start to look at the emotional responses you are having and in turn learn to confront assumptions about your issues, are they based on evidence or simply old and untrue beliefs?
We will look at what you are worried about, what you fear may happen and look at all the possible outcomes not just the worst case scenario. You can then learn to be able to deploy these resources for yourself, so while I have helped you through this current issue, should you encounter the problem again you will be in a position to tackle this by yourself.
A huge part of the process is about beginning to value yourself and learning to care for yourself emotionally to give yourself space for your emotional reactions and possibly start to change the expectations you have of yourself. There is also an opportunity to discuss underlying issues that may have started the anxiety and depression and this may involve talking about your childhood or events that may have shaped your view of the world.
As an integrative Counsellor I will blend a range of therapeutic approaches to help you with the issues you are experiencing, CBT is one of these therapies.
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a talking therapy that can help you manage your problems by changing the way you think and behave. It is commonly used to treat anxiety and depression but can be useful for other issues.
CBT is based on the concept that your thoughts, feelings, physical sensations and actions are all connected, and that negative thoughts and feelings can trap you in a vicious unhelpful cycle. CBT will help you deal with overwhelming problems in a more positive way by breaking them down into smaller parts. I will show you how to change these negative patterns to improve the way you feel.
Unlike some other talking treatments, CBT deals with your current problems, rather than focusing on issues from your past, however we may also explore some historic issues so we can see how some of these unhelpful patterns, beliefs and coping strategies have evolved. Understanding why we behave the way we do enables us to be kinder to ourselves and make changes from a compassionate place.